What To Do When People Push THEIR Goals On You

“I’ll go camping with you but I’m absolutely not watching televised sports.” *

Hand to God, that was the title of my 2013 Match.com dating profile.

Why? Because I’d spent a previous relationship politely watching hours of sports I didn’t care about and I DIDN’T EVER WANT TO DO THAT ISH AGAIN.

If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, had parents, or existed in society, you’ve probably done something similar. You’ve taken on hobbies that bore you, pursued the wrong goals, or tried to achieve something because everybody else was doing it.

So how do we avoid that? How do we notice that we’re taking on other people’s goals and what do we say when they keep nudging us towards the wrong goal?

I’m so glad you asked! If you’re a Nice Person Who Likes To Do A Good Job ?‍♀️, it is possible to say no to other people’s goals for you! Keep reading  ?

How to notice when other people are pushing the wrong goals on you

If you’ve ever gotten two years and tens of thousands of dollars into an academic program before realizing … “Wait a minute!! I don’t even want to do this!” I wrote this for you.

Misaligned goals might lead to: 

  • Procrastination
  • Making excuses
  • Spectacular self-sabotage
  • You don’t want to talk about it when people ask you
  • Your voice gets all high and polite when you do talk about it 

This doesn’t apply to every person or every goal. Some of us procrastinate and make excuses about goals we choose ourselves and very much want! But you know your brain and your tendencies best – if you don’t usually procrastinate or make excuses, that’s a clue that these goals probably aren’t right for you. 

How to nicely say no to other people’s goals for you

The first real step is: have a goal you are excited about and are working towards. (If you don’t have one, this will help!)

Once you’ve got that figured out …

Redirect them towards your goals + emphasize how excited you are about them

When they say “You should finish your degree” you’re ready with “I’m really enjoying the manager training I’m doing at work and that’s what I’m working towards. It’s a great program!”

If your aunt hits you with “You should get cracking on the baby-making, clock’s a-ticking!” you say “Our main focus right now is saving up for a house. We’re so close to having a down payment saved; it’s exciting to see our hard work paying off!”

Your friend says “Marathons are the best, you really should train for one with me!” you respond “I love that you love marathons! I’m super committed to earning my brown belt in jiu jitsu; that’s where my weekends are going for the foreseeable future.”

See? You don’t even really need to “disagree” with them or actively shut them down! You just redirect the conversation towards the thing you’re working towards and communicate your excitement and commitment.

Only a Grade A Asshat would hear that you’re excited about and committed to a goal and say “but I want you to do my thing!!!” <- and if they say that they’re a ridiculous person and you can ignore them.

Plan what you’re going to say ahead of time

It’s human nature that we want people to like us. So when someone we care about makes a suggestion – go for the promotion, stay in the relationship, start a family, go back to school – it’s easy to go along with it, just to keep the peace.

Or we sort of get surprised into nodding along and then they think we’re agreeing that, yes, enrolling in an MBA program IS a good idea!

Here’s a good formula (in its most polite, gentle form)

“I get the feeling you really want me to ________________ and that’s so sweet and I appreciate your support and your interest in my future. I’m not sure that’s right for me right now. I feel really strongly about ______________ and that’s where I’m going to be directing my time and energy.”

Or more bluntly

“I know you want me to _____________________. I think ____________________ is a better fit for me and that’s where I’m going to be directing my time and energy.”

And an evergreen reminder: People are allowed to disapprove of your choices and you’re allowed to make them anyway. Share on X

RELATED: Are you paying the Authenticity Tax? 

If you’re a people pleaser doing these four things – noticing when you’re pursuing the wrong goal, choosing one you’re actually excited about, redirecting the conversation, and planning your response ahead of time – will really help.

If you use any of these methods with bossy friends or family, let me know!

* This headline attracted my super handsome, funny, smarty pants husband who likes to play sports but not watch sports.

My unsolicited online dating advice: EXTREMELY BE YOURSELF. You’ll save yourself so much time by attracting a much smaller (but more awesome) group of applicants.


Photo by Kento Hirasue on Unsplash


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